Faith leaders call for a “free and fair election”

Here is the statement:

We join together as leaders of faith across political, religious, and ideological differences to affirm our commitment to a free, fair, and safe election. The values of our faith traditions inform our dedication to this cause. All of the constitutional freedoms that we enjoy, including our religious freedom, depend on the integrity of our elections—the foundation of American democracy. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and other national challenges this election season, we express our support for the following commitments and call on all public officials, civic leaders, and all people in a position of power across the country to commit to the same:

  • Our leaders must ensure a free and fair election in which all eligible Americans can safely cast their votes without interference, suppression, or fear of intimidation.
  • Leaders and election officials must count every vote in accordance with applicable laws before the election is decided, even if the process takes a longer time because of precautions in place due to COVID-19.
  • Leaders should share timely, accurate information about the election results and resist and avoid spreading misinformation.
  • Leaders must actively and publicly support a peaceful transition of power or continuation of leadership based on legitimate election results.

The commitments outlined above are central to a functioning and healthy republic and they are supported by the vast majority of Americans, yet they are being challenged in unprecedented ways in the 2020 election. America is only as strong as its people’s commitment to our democracy and the freedoms and rights it ensures. We invite our neighbors of all beliefs and backgrounds to join us in this urgent commitment to support free and fair elections, especially at this crucial moment for our democracy.

Most of the signers are progressive or liberal faith leaders. Conservative faith leaders must not believe in a “free and fair election” or else they were not asked to sign. Or maybe they refused to sign because they did not want to be associated with liberals.

There are some notable evangelical and evangelical-friendly voices who signed this statement including:

Bishop Claude Alexander of The Park Church, (Charlotte, NC)

Manfred Baruch, Palmer Theological Seminary

Stanley Carlson-Thies, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance

Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals

Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christians

Walter Contreras, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Richard Foster, Renovare

Justin Giboney, The AND Campaign

Roberta Hestenes, PCUSA Church

Dennis Hollinger, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Joel Hunter, Community Resource Network

John Inazu, Washington University

Walter Kim, National Association of Evangelicals

Mark Labberton, Fuller Theological Seminary

Samuel Logan, The World Reformed Fellowship

JoAnn Lyon, The Wesleyan Church

Walter McCray, National Black Evangelical Association

Richard Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

Napp Nazworth, freelance writer

David Neff, former editor of Christianity Today

Gabriel Salguero, National Latino Evangelical Coalition

Ronald Sider, Christians for Social Action

Boz Tchividjian, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment

Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Michael Wear, Public Square Strategies

Evangelicals seek Ivanka Trump’s help to protect migrant children

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Here is Elana Schor of the Associated Press:

More than a dozen prominent evangelicals are appealing to first daughter and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump to help ensure the Trump administration adheres to federal anti-trafficking law in its treatment of unaccompanied migrant children.

In a letter to President Donald Trump’s daughter sent Monday, the evangelical leaders laud Ivanka Trump for her recent declaration that human trafficking is “the gravest of human rights violations.” They urge her to “use your significant influence within the administration” to help end the suspension of a federal anti-trafficking law that had provided safeguards for unaccompanied children who cross the border.

“For many evangelical Christians throughout the United States, fighting human trafficking and standing for vulnerable children are key policy priorities,” the evangelicals wrote in their letter, which was shared in advance with The Associated Press.

Read the rest here.

Signers of this letter includes Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Scott Arbeiter of World Relief; Edgar Sandoval of World Vision; and Chris Palusky of Bethany Christian Services.

World Relief report criticizes Trump’s efforts to aid refugees facing religious persecution

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If you read my court evangelical roundups, you know about Johnnie Moore, the Trump evangelical who likes to tout himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” Moore champions the cause of global religious liberty. Here are some of his latest tweets:

Moore loves Secretary of State’s Mike Pompeo’s emphasis on religious liberty around the world. He recently retweeted Pompeo:

On Friday, Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service reported that World Relief, an evangelical Christian relief agency, released a report on persecuted Christians and U.S. refugee settlement. Here is a taste of Jenkins’s piece:

Entitled “Closed Doors: Persecuted Christians and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Processes,” the report was prepared by World Relief and Open Doors USA — both organizations that work on issues of immigration and religious persecution.

Their findings focus on the Trump administration’s drastic cuts to the refugee resettlement program, which has long been run in partnership with several religious organizations — including World Relief, an evangelical Christian group. According to the report, there has been a 90% reduction since 2015 in the number of persecuted Christians resettled in the United States.

And this:

The report calls for the U.S. government to return to “at least a historically normal ceiling” for refugee resettlement, such as 95,000 refugees per year as recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2019. In addition, the authors urge the Trump administration to reject proposed changes to existing immigration systems that would make it more difficult to attain asylum in the U.S.

The document implicitly calls into question Trump’s 2017 promise to assist persecuted Christians. When asked about the issue by the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said his administration would make responding to Christians fleeing persecution in Syria a priority.

“They’ve been horribly treated,” Trump said. He later added: “We are going to help them.”

Curry and Breene were careful not to criticize Trump directly during the call and pointed to instances where the Trump administration has taken some steps to assist persecuted religious minorities.

For example, Curry noted when Vice President Mike Pence personally intervened to dedicate U.S. Agency for International Development funds to better living conditions for religious minorities in northern Iraq. That move is part of a larger strategy aimed at improving the situation of persecuted Christians where they live instead of prioritizing refugee resettlement.

But when pressed about whether the Trump administration’s strategy tangibly benefited the lives of persecuted Christians in their countries of origin, Breene acknowledged that despite the government’s “good” intentions, “it’s very rare to see material progress.”

And even if conditions improve overseas, said Curry, Christians who have been displaced from their homes because of religious persecution still need help.

“This is a significant gaping hole in their strategy: that there are some people that are still in danger for their faith,” he said. “They’re not going to be able to move back home. If they could, they would.”

Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, called the data in the report “shocking.” Kim also expressed disappointment in the Trump administration’s refugee settlement policy. 

The United States, he said, has “long (been) a beacon of hope for those fleeing religious persecution … We must change this policy and remain a leader for religious freedom.”

Read the entire piece here.

A few closing thoughts:

  1. So far, Moore has been silent about this report.
  2. Moore and other court evangelicals will need to figure out how they can support Trump’s immigration policies and still claim the president is a champion of religious freedom around the world.
  3. It is also worth noting that Moore has been silent on this.
  4. Walter Kim is the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Johnnie Moore is a member of the NAE board.

Evangelicals Urge Trump to Release People From Immigration Detention Facilities

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Court evangelical Samuel Rodriguez

Here is the Associated Press:

NEW YORK – Nine leaders at evangelical Christian organizations are urging the Trump administration to release people from immigration detention facilities “who do not pose a threat to public safety” during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those who are elderly or otherwise at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

In a letter sent Monday to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the evangelicals called for alliances with religious and other local groups to help find released detainees “safe accommodations in which to ‘shelter in place’ for as long as such practices are advised.” Such actions to aid social distancing in detention, the faith leaders wrote, would help staff as well as detained migrants.

“Our concern is rooted in our Christian belief that each human life is made in the image of God and thus precious, and, like you, we want to do everything possible to minimize the loss of life as a result of this pandemic,” the prominent evangelicals wrote.

The evangelicals signing the letter said they would “encourage the many churches and ministries within our networks to provide any assistance they can” to help released detainees shelter safely.

Shared with The Associated Press in advance of its public release, the letter was signed by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council, among others.

Read the rest here.

Rodriguez is a prominent Trump court evangelical, but has often broken with the president on immigration issues.

Darryl Hart on Boston’s Park Street Church, Evangelicalism, and the “Ghost of Harold John Ockenga”

Park StreetHarold John Ockenga was the pastor of Boston’s Park Street Church from 1936 to 1969.

He was one of the early leaders of the neo-evangelical movement in the 1940s and 1950s.  We normally associated the rise of neo-evangelicalism with people such Ockenga, Billy Graham, Nelson Bell, and Carl F.H. Henry and institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Christianity Today.

Ockenga was one of the founders of the National Association of Evangelicals and served as its president from 1942-1944.  He was the president of both Fuller and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He was the chairman of the board of Christianity Today during its first twenty-five years of publication.

As some of you know, the National Association of Evangelicals recently named a new president.  His name is Walter Kim and  he served as a minister of Park Street Church for fifteen years.

Christianity Today recently named a new editor.  His name is Daniel Harrell and he served as a “preaching minister” at Park Street Church.

Here is Hart as his blog:

Here are the balls to keep an eye on: Boston’s Park Street Church, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Fuller Seminary, Christianity Today.

That means Harrell is following a trail blazed by Harold John Ockenga. Who, you might ask? Well, he was the rare winner of evangelicalism’s Triple Crown — presiding over Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Fuller Seminary. He was also pastor of Park Street Church. 

And this:

Granted, Kim only has two direct links to Ockenga — Park Street and the National Association of Evangelicals — compared to Harrell’s four. Whether these institutions function more as gatekeepers or networks is debatable. But if you want to know where to look for leadership within those who want to be evangelicalism’s leaders, look to Boston while gesturing to Pasadena, California.

It looks like a certain wing of evangelical Christianity in America still runs through the Boston Common.  I wonder what this means for my former pastor at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

Walter Kim is the New President of the National Association of Evangelicals

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Kim grew up in Appalachia.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University where he was a history major.  He has an M.Div from Regent College in Vancouver, and a Ph.D in Near Eastern languages from Harvard.  It is an impressive resume.  He is a currently pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia and previously served as lead pastor at Boston’s Park Street Church. (My former pastor, Phil Thorne, is currently the Interim Senior Minister at this historic evangelical church).

Kim replaces Minnesota pastor Leith Anderson.

According to Kate Shellnut’s piece today at Christianity Today, Kim hopes to “bring together a movement in crisis.”

Here is a taste of that piece:

Kim will maintain his position at Trinity Charlottesville, a prominent PCA congregation with over 1,000 members, noting the bivocational precedent for the presidency, as past leaders have also continued their roles in their local churches.

“Throughout this process, my prayer has been that if I trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, he would make my path straight (Prov. 3:5-6),” said Kim, who is married with two teenage kids. “I’m also grateful for the godly counsel of family, dear friends both old and new, and a discernment committee at Trinity. These resulted in a growing conviction to accept this appointment—knowing that even though I am a jar of clay, the all-surpassing power is from God (2 Cor. 4:7).”

Prior to Trinity Charlottesville and Park Street, Kim served as a chaplain at Yale University, and taught at Boston College and Harvard University, where he received his PhD in Near Eastern languages and civilizations. He has previously described being raised in a loosely Christian home and “backing into evangelicalism” as his faith affirmations and experience grew deeper.

Read the entire piece here. This looks like a good move.